Saturday, August 11, 2012



Quote for Today - August 11, 2012

"The deepest definition of youth is, life as yet untouched by tragedy."

Alfred North Whitehead [1861-1947],  Adventures of Ideas, 1933

Discussion points: 

Name the 3 most significant tragedies in your life?

Name some specific learnings from each tragedy?

Ask another who knows you what they think are the tragedies of your life?

Don't interrupt the other in the telling. Give them time. Give them a week or a month. You can ask them why they think the way they think - and how they saw you reacting, recoiling, recovering, resenting specific tragedies. Don't invite yourself to tell them what you think are their key tragedies - unless the other invites you.

Do you agree with Whitehead's thesis?

If you didn't bring faith into your comments and learnings, what would that be like looking at each tragedy?

Friday, August 10, 2012



The title of my homily for the feast of St. Lawrence is, “Willing to Die to Give.”

Having read the readings and reflecting on the life and death of St. Lawrence, I wasn’t sure just what title to give to a homily for today.

I toyed with the words, “Dying”, “Giving,” and “Willing.”

So I settled on the sentence, “Willing To Die To Give.”

Am I willing each today to die to myself by giving to others of me, myself, and my time and my life?


St. Lawrence the Deacon was willing to die to give his life for others and for Christ.

He didn’t just die for a theology or an ideology. Those who killed him thought the Church had treasures to be grabbed - and so they grabbed Lawrence to get the gold. We’ve often heard that St. Lawrence pointed out: “Yes we have treasures. They are the poor.”

We’ve all heard the Early Church teaching that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Dictators have often hesitated to kill leaders who opposed them - lest they make martyrs of them.

So St. Lawrence, one of early deacons in Rome, died for the cause of Christ. He gave his life for his community.

He knew Jesus’ words, “Greater love than this no one has than to lay down their life for their friends.”

Lawrence knew the words of today’s gospel, that the grain of wheat must die - otherwise it just sits there. But if it’s planted in the field - it will die and rise bringing forth a harvest of wheat for our world.

Lawrence knew the words of today’s first reading from 2 Corinthians 9:6,  “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Lawrence was burnt to death - and the joke we hear every year - is part of the our Church Tradition. He supposedly said to his torturers who had him on a cooking grill. He said, “Turn me over! I’m done on this side.”


The title of my homily is, “Willing to Die to Give.”

Each day we are given the seed of 24 hours. What do we plant with those moments of time?

Each life has talents to give - and we have energy to burn - for whom and for what? If we give, if we’re willing to make sacrifices, if we’re willing to be unselfish, then life becomes better for those around us.

This message of being willing to give - to die to oneself to give - is at  the center of Christianity. This is  the meaning of Christ. This is the meaning of the cross - here big time in this church with our big cross - but we also see the cross at the beginning and end of a rosary, on walls. It’s the sign made on us at baptism. It’s the gesture and the sign we make each time we come to church.

We see it in the Eucharist - the result of wheat seed that died - by being planted in the soil - and we benefit from that death - because the wheat grew and was harvested and made into flour and made bread.


Let me close by pointing out that this vestment I’m wearing is red - the color of martyrs. That’s obvious, but what you can’t see is that this vestment has sown on the inside the words, “In memory of John Ginley.”  He was a New York Fireman who died on the job at the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11th. He and his 3 brothers - used to come on retreat with their dad - all firemen - to our retreat house at San Alfonso West End N.J. - when I was stationed there in the 1970’s.

We have in our midst and around the world, people who are willing to die by giving of themselves each day. Question: Am I willing to die each day - so that new life is given to the world each day?

O O O O O O O 

PAINTING ON TOP: "Martyrdom of St. Lawrence," disputed Caravaggio painting.


Quote for Today  August 10, 2012

"This is the Thing that I was born to do."

Samuel Daniel [1562-1619], Musophilus  [1599], Stanza 100


Have you ever said to yourself in private the quote given above?

If someone asked you, "Why were you born?", what would be your answer?

Did you ever say the above quote - but later learned to take it back?

Image on Top: Samuel Daniel, Front piece engraving from the Civile Ware [1609] by Thomas Coxson. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Quote for Today  August 9, 2012

"You don't have to attend every argument you're invited to."

Submitted to Guildposts - August 2012 - by Brenda Ashford

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Quote for Today  August 8,  2012

"Rob the average person of their life-illusion, and you rob them of their happiness."

Henrik Ibsen [1826-1906] The Wild Duck, Act. V.


Is that line from one of Ibsen's play true for you - based on your observations about life - self and others?

If it's a life illusion, could someone know it before their end? 

Are there little illusions - besides big illusions - besides the big, big life illusion Ibsen might be referring to?  Have you experienced the unmasking or the discovery of some illusions - name them?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012



The title of my homily for this 18th Tuesday in Ordinary Time  is, “Alone!”

Last night I noticed the word “alone” in a sentence from today’s gospel: “When it was evening he was there alone.”

What thoughts and feelings does that word "alone" trigger for you? How do we deal with being alone at times?


Sometimes in the gospels we notice Jesus going it alone. It seems he needs space.  He disappears - hides - prays - needs to be all alone.

We also notice in the gospels that Jesus sometimes wants to be with others - to pray with others - to have companionship.

Sometimes he wants to be with others. When Jesus sent his disciples out, he sent them out two by two. When he climbed the mountain of transfiguration, he did it with 3 of his favorite disciples: Peter, James and John.

The Transfiguration scene was yesterday’s gospel. Today’s gospel has Jesus going off alone into the mountains.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, how good am I at being alone. 

The obvious answer is, “It all depends.”


Someone said, “Solitude is being alone when you want to be alone; loneliness is being alone when you don’t want to be alone.”

Is that true for you? Has that been your experience?

I noticed a quote yesterday from Anton Chekhov, “If you are afraid of loneliness, do not marry.”

Is that true? 

Answer: “It all depends.”

Sometimes it’s nice to take a good walk all by oneself - alone - and sometimes it’s good to take a good walk with others.

Which is worse: to be a shut in or to be shut out?

Answer: "It all depends."


Epictetus [c. 50-120] the first century Roman slave  - who became a Stoic philosopher wrote, “When you close your doors, when you darken within, remember never to say you are alone. You are not alone. God is within. Your genius is within. And they don't need light to see what your are doing.”

Jesus said close to the same thing when he told us in the Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 6: 6 “When you go to pray, [don’t pray to catch the attention of others]  - go to your private room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.”

Sometimes when we pray we feel alone - even though we’re in a crowd. Sometimes when we pray - alone or with others God seems absent. Sometimes when we pray with others, we feel so absent from them. We don’t feel connection of community

Sometimes it’s worth reflecting upon Jesus in prayer. When he prayed in the garden the night before he died,  the others were close by - but asleep - and it seems he felt very alone.  We know how alone Jesus felt on the cross - even though Mary and John and others were  down below.

So the answer is: It all depends.


One answer for our reflections on what we think and feel about being “alone” is to bring our reflections to both God and to others.

Prayer is sharing.

Prayer is communicating and being in communion with God.

Communication is sharing with friends as well - whether on mountain tops or in gardens or when we’re on the cross.

And sometimes they walk on water and show up at our boat - and smoother sailing is the result. Amen.


Quote for Today - August 7,  2012

"Solitude brings life; isolation kills."

Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest, Pt. v. No. 60

Monday, August 6, 2012



The title of my homily  for today’s feast of the Transfiguration is a question, “What Does The Feast of the Transfiguration Mean to You?”

Every once and a while we come around a corner and there is a celebration going on - that we are totally in the dark about?

It could be an anniversary - a birthday - a feast day for some group - or what have you.

I don’t know the why and the what of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona in Spain - part of the Fiesta de San Fermin. I looked it up in Google for a quick glimpse. San Fermin is the patron saint of Navarra in Spain. I know nothing - nada - about him.

The only Islamic feast - better fast - that I know about 1% of is Ramadan - when Muslims believe the gates of heaven are open and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are in chains - and sins are remitted for those who fast with pure motives.

So if someone had no clue about the Feast of the Transfiguration and they asked you what it mean, what would you say?


Having been going to daily Mass all my life I’m aware of the feast of the Transfiguration. It’s every year on August 6th, but the scene of the Transfiguration is read several times every year. Today we heard Mark’s version. It’s also in Luke and Matthew.

What does the feast of the Transfiguration mean to you?

Every year I have a chance to preach on it - so I have various takes and lots of sermons on the scene - especially after being a priest for 47 years.


This morning I just sat there and said to myself, “Let me see if I can come up with 5 vignettes about the Feast of the Transfiguration.

Number One:  Today August 6 is the day the first Atomic Bomb was dropped - on Hiroshima in Japan. From 66,000 to 87,000 people died as a result of that bombing. The numbers were based on a census of the people who lived in the area that was destroyed. So they don’t know how many Korean workers and Japanese soldiers were also killed. I looked up on line Hiroshima and felt “woo! once more - and in the midst of the pictures was an image of Christ on the cross. This event - the crucifixion and the A-Bombing always lead me from the word “transfiguration” to “disfiguration”.  So that would be my first comment.

Second Comment:  Was September 11, 2001 our Hiroshima? Did we get a glimpse in a small way what it was to be like at Hiroshima?  I lost one cousin. I also met Father Michael Judge once.  What we experienced as a nation with the losses in New York, the Pentagon, Pennsylvania and with the passengers in those planes, Japan experienced - that August 6th, 1945 - as well as so many other people whose lives were wiped out or changed in World War II.

Third Comment: When I saw the pictures of those burnt at Hiroshima, I thought of my cousin Patty’s daughter Jeanne. She was severely burned and had over 50 operations on her face, arms, chest. In spite of that she has become a beautiful woman. Those who just see her scars and marred skin might not think that. However, once you get to know her, you’d see her beautiful personality.  This morning while preparing this homily, I looked up the word “transfiguration”  in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and found a quote from Victor Hugo that I need to ponder. “Great grief is a divine and terrible radiance which transfigures the wretched.” From Les Miserables.

Fourth Comment: I noticed my first three comments had more to do with disfiguration than transfiguration. So let me give a very positive transfiguration moment. I had a spaghetti dinner once with 20 priests at a Franciscan Monastery on top of the mountain they think was the mountain of the Transfiguration. After we got up there in Mercedes Benz cabs,  we had a wonderful Mass to start the day off. Then we had an hour of silence. Then we had the Italian dinner. Several times up on that mountain we said in our hearts what the disciples said in the gospel, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” It taught me to say that sentence on many a mountain, at many a family celebration, on many a vacation, at many a transfiguration moment.

Fifth Comment:  Jesus taught me over and over again to see many of life’s moments in a new light. I learned that the transfiguration in the gospels is a glimpse of the resurrection - as we heard in today’s gospel. So thank you Jesus for the times I’ve experienced resurrection before the resurrection - especially in the Eucharist, in friends, babies, wrinkled old folks, spring buds and autumn leaves - in a snow storm - in sweat - yes sweat, when someone is really working hard to make a living. For example, driving up West Street on these hot, hot days, I’ve noticed that team of workers who are  building us better sidewalks lately and on and on and on.


So today I’m asking you to do your homework. What does the Feast of the Transfiguration mean to you? See if you can come up with 5 vignettes.


Quote for Today - August 6, 2012

"Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima .... The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East."

Harry S. Truman [1884-1972], First Announcement of the Atomic Bomb [August 6, 1945]


What is your take and your ethics on the Atomic Bomb? It and even stronger bombs sit there around the world - ready for use.  What is your take on the Atomic Bomb?

When talking about nuclear bombs, why not bring Anton Chekhov's famous saying into the conversation? "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." Ilia Gurliand Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov, in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No 28, 11 July, p. 521. commonly known as Chekhov's dictum or Chekhov's Gun. 

Have the presence of nuclear bombs prevented - or caused hesitation - in the minds of those who make decisions? Do fear factors on what might happen if there were a nuclear war prevent us from using them? If they have prevented bigger wars, do they factor into discussions on the "why" and "how" of smaller scale wars that are a regular occurrence around our world?

Should assault rifles and guns used by males who massacre people in schools and theaters and meetings be brought into the conversation as well?

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration. Should horrible transfigurations or disfigurations be brought into the conversation as well? 

Have you ever had a personal Hiroshima - or would using the word that way - "dishonor" the lives of those who were killed and obliterated that day - August 6, 1945?

Sunday, August 5, 2012



The title of my homily for this 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, is, “Murmur, Mumble, Grumble, Gripe.”

It’s a theme that was triggered from right there in the first sentence in today’s first reading from Exodus. “The whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.”

The people are steamed. The people are screaming, “Why did you drag us out of Egypt? We’re starving. Here we are stuck in the desert - without food - without water.”

Murmuring, mumbling, grumbling were something Moses as well as Christ had to deal with. Don’t we all? And don’t we ourselves at times murmur, mumble, grumble, gripe - then snipe and become walking grudges as we walk down the street and into the rooms and situations we experience each day?


Could something in a sermon about murmuring, mumbling, grumbling, griping, challenge us - challenge us enough to want to change - if we’re in that space and in that place too, too often?

Others might be inwardly screaming at us, “Enough already! Get over it!” But they patiently put up with us and put a smile on their face.


I don’t know about you, but I’d be interested in what could be said about this theme of: Murmuring, Mumbling, Grumbling and Griping. Sounds like a law firm, doesn't it?  

I’d want to hear something helpful - interesting - insightful - intriguing - new - something with a grab - something challenging.

Now that’s a challenge.


The first observation would be the movement of the tongue. 

I once heard in a talk by Alan Watts that the tongue is always moving - even when we’re not talking - always ever slightly. It’s moving. He said our tongue is moving whenever we are thinking.

I didn’t know that. I still don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a fascinating observation. 

For 30 years now,  it’s  something I’ve been wondering if it’s true. Sometimes when I think about that,  I try to feel or sense - IS my tongue moving? 

So for starters I make that comment about the moving tongue from my moving tongue.

If it’s true - or if at least our mind is always moving - always thinking - inwardly agreeing - disagreeing - always trying to figure out what someone just said, then a clear wondering should be: “What am I talking to myself about most of the time?”

If it’s mostly complaining, griping, grumbling, mumbling, murmuring, then we might need to get over it - or bite our tongue or shut up with the complaining - even to ourselves. We don’t want to say that to someone who is always whining. However, we can face ourselves. If we’re always inwardly complaining,  think:  “Enough already!”

My next observation would be a list. Does anyone have a list of the top 10 things people mumble about? 

I would guess # 1 would be the complaining that goes on when I don’t get my way.

I would guess another key issue would be politics and positions on different issues. 

Another would be the weather - complaining that it’s too hot outside and too cold inside - and vice versa in January. 

Other issues might be traffic, litter, noise, parking, sermons,  slow service in restaurants, people getting up and down in the seats in front of us in a movie or a play or a game. Where do people keep going?  It can’t always be the bathroom. I wonder if it’s for a smoke or for a phone call or for what? 

Is my tongue moving as I’m thinking about all this?

So, are there 10 top inward complaints? Are there 3 top inward complaints? Is there a # 1 inward talk show I’m always watching?

If I had to make a guess, I’d guess it’s either wanting my way or it would be the fairness issue, For starters I’ve heard kids who don’t get their way complaining over and over again, “It’s not fair. It’s not fair.”

Are there adults who are screaming that forever?  “It’s not fair.”

I haven’t listened to kids enough for a while  - but I used to think that kids were  also always yelling, “Look at me! Look at what I made! Look at what I can do!”

Are we all yelling inwardly to the world, “Look at me! This is what I can do? Look at my car! Look at my house! Look at my kids! Look at my salary! Look at my figure!”

Somewhere along the line I was in a playground with one of my nieces and there were a lot of Latino kids on the rides and I began hearing the word, “Mira!" "Mira!”  “Look! Look at me!” Are we too all screaming that with our tongues - loudly or silently - our tongue always moving?  Do we all want everyone to be for us  a big mirror - mirror - so we can see ourselves?

Is that the number one inner murmur and mumble? Look at me!

Or is the number one inner gripe and grumble:  resentments and regrets?

Want a good conversation starter? Ask each other: any resentments? Any regrets?

I have to think about all this a bit more. This is just a homily I began working on last night.

Reflecting on resentment and regret, at first glance I would think the difference between them would be that  regrets are deeper and more ingrained. I regret I never finished my degree. I regret I didn’t marry him or her? I regret I dropped out of the marines or didn’t take that job when I was offered it. I regret. I regret. I regret. Fill in the blank ________.

At first glance I would think resentments bring in others or another - while regrets are more about ourselves.

I resent a specific teacher or parent who told me I never would make it as a lawyer or a doctor or an athlete. I resent that clique - that gang - in high school who gave me that nickname and I never lived it down.

I’ve heard about priests who didn’t get picked to be a professor - and as a result they became a complainer and a sour face all their lives. I wanted to go to Brazil and never got assigned to the foreign missions so I heard that comment loud and clear.


One Bible text that I often use is from Judas. At the last supper when Jesus said that one of the disciples would betray him, Judas asked, “Is it I Lord?” Jesus answered, “You have said it.” [Cf. Matthew 26:25]

When I hear people murmuring, mumbling, grumbling and griping - when I hear people sniping and walking around with what looks like a grudge on their face or back, I sometimes think, “Is it I, Lord?” When I say that to myself, does Jesus say, “You have said it! You’re it!”

The Book of Exodus has Moses calling on the Lord for help with all the grumbling going on. He tells the people where to find food and water - but they complained about that as well.

The Gospel of John, Chapter 6, has Jesus providing bread and fish - and then the deeper bread - the Bread of Life - himself - but in the end most walked away from him. Is it I Lord? Is it I, Lord?

We’re here, because we believe Jesus gives us the both the Bread of Life and the Words of Life - to incorporate them into our way of thinking and being.

Isn't that the Mass? Isn't that every meal: words and food?

Take Jesus' words. Someone drives us crazy. There’s one in every situation. Jesus gives us words on how to deal with craziness and complaining. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Go underneath. Love one another as I have loved you. Don’t throw rocks. Die to self, so others can rise.

And surprise - in the long run - when we practice that kind of love, the other, the person who breaks our spirit or our back - changes. And sometimes they  come to us and say, “Thank you for the patience and the support you gave me back then - when I was falling apart - and everyone was going crazy with me -  you didn’t. Thank you."

And at that moment we discover that Jesus' way to do life is THE way to live life.  

Life can be tough at times. We might have said 100 times about an alcoholic or a kid on drugs - what Jesus said from the cross, “Father forgive him for he does know what he is doing.” 

Surprise! There is a sunrise. There is a new day. There is an Easter Sunday Morning Moment. It might take 12 steps. It might take 12,000 steps repeated, but the other recovers. It's then we experience what Jesus was about: Resurrection and Recovery.


I need to conclude this somehow. Here’s 2 ways:

First way - words: to ask myself  - "If I could put a microphone or a stereoscope on my skull and listen in on my inner ongoing everyday conversations,  would I hear a lot of growling and grumbling inside me or would I hear the howl of laughter - that I’m filled with great gratitude to God and my parents for giving me the gift of life and all that has happened to me so far?"

Second way - bread: when we take Jesus in our hands and place him on our tongue or the Eucharistic Minister does that - why not  ask Jesus to feed us with his life, his Spirit, his way of being? And then, when we digest Jesus from our tongue which never seems to stop moving and  bring him into our body, into our being, we need to really hear Jesus say what he said at the end of  today’s Gospel, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”


Quote for Today  - August 5,  2012

"I have seen
A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
Of inland ground, applying to his ear
The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell,
To which, in silence hushed, his very soul
Listened intensely; and his countenance soon

Brightened with joy, for whom within were heard
Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed
Mysterious union with its native sea."

William Wordsworth [1770-1850] The Excursion [1814], book IV, line 1132.